I decided that I needed a model of the Southern Railway Ms-4 2-8-2, which was based on the USRA heavy mikado. Of course Lionel has done a USRA heavy, but it would require extensive re-detailing and die-cast is rather difficult to work with. The Williams brass mike has a superior drive train, plus the ease of working with brass. Trouble is, it's not exactly a USRA heavy. As others on this forum have noted, while it's definitely not a light, the boiler is too skinny (both in the middle course and at the smokebox) and it's a little too long for a heavy. However, I believe that with some judicious re-detailing it can be made into a reasonable approximation of the Ms-4.
Meet the donor engine, in its last days lettered for the UP:
Sorry, UP fans, the paint is gone. It looks so nice this way, I kind of hate to change it:
As you can see I've already removed the headlight, bracket, and marker lights. All will be replaced with different parts. I've amassed a pile of detail parts by PSC, Stevenson, Wiseman, and Lionel that will transform the look of this well-built locomotive. I'll post updates periodically as progress allows.